Anatomy of a Classic: The Film’s Legacy & Romantic Tourism (2023)

The Film’s Legacy & Romantic Tourism

Exploring what it means to fall in love with a film and its iconic locations

Twenty years ago, Julia Roberts stood in front of Hugh Grant in a little-known travel book shop, asking him to love her. It is one of the most famous rom-com scenes in history. Since then, people have flocked to The Notting Hill Bookshop in London to take a selfie, buy a book and in some rare cases, propose marriage.

“We have at least two proposals a month, but there are more than we even know of,” says the bookshop’s manager, Olga Lewkowska. “Sometimes people write ahead and ask, but a lot just turn up to celebrate their anniversary years later. One guy made an album for his fiancée and hid it in our travel section for her to find. It took her half an hour to find it, they got engaged, and then they went to visit all the other locations from the film around London.”

And that is not an isolated incident. Every day, hordes of tourists turn up to take photos outside the famous blue façade: “Oh my god, we get thousands of visitors because of the movie. I’m not exaggerating. Good heavens, on a Saturday, I’d say about 1000 people come to take a photo or visit. Then there are all the people outside who never manage to get in because we’re too busy.”

The Most Famous Blue Door In The World

Just down the road, you will find another famous Notting Hill location: The blue door of the little flat Hugh Grant’s character lived in. The scenes inside the flat were actually filmed in a studio, but the exterior shots were filmed at 280 Westbourne Park Road, just metres from the corner where Grant spilled orange juice over Roberts. The original door went to auction at Christies for almost £6,000 for charity some years ago, and is now located somewhere in Amsterdam. For years, the owners of the Notting Hill flat had their door painted black sick of the attention it was receiving from the millions of travellers each year, but whoever owns it now has restored it to a striking royal blue.

While Notting Hill has always been a staple in any London itinerary, it is this little stretch of Notting Hill that is home to its very own tourism boom, remarkably so. There is even a successful gift shop on Portobello called ‘The Blue Door’. Its owner, Guiseppe Iannuzzi, says that at least twenty per cent of his customers are there because of the movie.

“When the movie came out, I realised how important it was to people. They created this legend around the blue door and they come in here all the time asking for directions,” he says.

“People think of the London they see in Notting Hill as the real London. Coming here is like seeing the Big Ben or eating fish and chips; it’s completely British.”

Iannuzzi credits the 1998 Richard Curtis film for making Notting Hill the tourist hot spot it is today. “I remember when there was no interest whatsoever in Portobello Road, there was not a single person here on a weekday. The movie has been very good for the area. The houses are expensive, the rent is high, there are people everywhere.”

Meanwhile, elsewhere in London, one of the city’s most famous restaurants still gets visits from Notting Hill fans. Nobu is where Julia Roberts confronts a group of men who were gossiping about her character - General Manager Andrew Milne says “We have visitors who have seen Notting Hill and request to sit at the table that appears in the film, even after all of these years. It’s always great to see how happy guests are who have a chance to dine in that spot at the restaurant.”

A Beloved Film and Its Treasured Locations

Unsurprisingly, there are countless walking tours of Notting Hill’s famous locations available online and they all feature the same, memorable places: The bookshop, the door, Max’s house at 91 Lansdowne Road (where Grant’s character takes the most famous woman in the world as a date to his little sister’s birthday party), Nobu restaurant (where the pair overhear men gossiping about Roberts’ character, Anna Scott), Kenwood House in Hampstead Heath (where she films a Henry James movie), Rosmead Gardens (a private garden they break into to the sound of a Ronan Keating song) and the turquoise ballroom called The Lancaster Room at The Savoy, A Fairmont Managed Hotel (where the press conference takes place)

The Savoy, at the centre of British luxury, is perhaps just as recognisable and cherished as the other Notting Hill locations mentioned. As this is the very spot the characters fall in love, fans of the film connect that with one of the most beautiful hotels in the country. It is here, that you see fans stepping into the hotel with wide-eyed wonder at how close they are to such a renowned moment in cinema. While the blue door and bookstore are a bit of fun and a novelty, it is at The Savoy, that fans feel deeper connection.

“Guests and visitors of The Savoy often ask about the film Notting Hill, as many are curious about where the scenes took place,” says Director of Marketing Communications, Emma Allam. “We show fans of the film the iconic Lancaster Ballroom, where the scene of the press conference was filmed, as well as the staircase from the Parlour Room where actor Hugh Grant made his grand entrance into the Ballroom.”

The Savoy, and its famed ballroom, feature on every Notting Hill locations tour in London. Lewis Swan, director of Traditional Tours UK, runs a walking tour every Saturday and a rom-com bus tour each month. “There are still so many people coming here, hoping to step into the fantasy they’ve watched in the film. It’s had a huge impact on the area – in many ways, it’s completely changed it. Notting Hill used to be a sleepy village but that movie put it on the world map. Since Hollywood came here, it’s mattered to people.”

The interest is extremely strong, all these years later. Tony Reeves from says that during the second half of 2018, the page for his Notting Hill tour received an incredibly large number of visits.

“Notting Hill is the fifth most visited page on the site – out of around 1750 film titles. The only other British films with a similar kind of response are A Clockwork Orange and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The popularity of Notting Hill – above titles such as Stars Wars or Lord of the Rings – is impressive.”

This year, it will be twenty years since Julia Roberts walked into that little travel book store for the first time and business owners and residents of Notting Hill are bracing for more visitors than ever.


Fairmont Hotels & Resorts celebrates its deep connection to cinematic history with it's event series Fairmont Loves Film. Comprised of pop-up events, a retrospective photo exhibit, as well as an exclusive collaboration with film director Gia Coppola, Fairmont Loves Film is an ode to the brand’s unrivalled Hollywood legacy.

Anatomy of a Classic: The Film’s Legacy & Romantic Tourism

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